John Marts was a friend of Nelson's who was wounded three times. This painting represents Nelson's experience during the war and shows the still-surviving spirit and valor of the American youth who bravely took up the call to arms.
James Davis Nelson served in the United States Army during the Vietnam War as a combat artist and rifleman from 1967-68. Nelson’s works are a memorial to those he fought with during, as he once joked, “an all-expenses-paid vacation to Southeast Asia.” His paintings depict the personal relationships he formed with fellow soldiers while highlighting the atmosphere of urgency and tension that he felt upon his arrival in Vietnam. Nelson had studied Fine Arts at the Art Students League and National Academy of Design in New York City and was working in a studio on Fifth Avenue when he was drafted in 1967.